Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year's Eve

I’m dog sitting for Blake and Evan.

It’s 10:30, and I’m in bed—their bed—with their puppy, Rhee. I could make all sorts of snide remarks about spending New Year's snuggled up with an aging, slightly overweight, bald in patches, nearly toothless Dachshund in a bed that belongs to a couple of gay guys. But, to be honest, I’m lizard on a heat rock happy right now.

As I was walking Rhee tonight, I got a few curious looks from some girls who were running out to catch a cab. They were in short, tight dresses, 3 inch eye makeup, and 4 inch heels. I was in flannel pants, a hoodie, old clogs, and one of the boys’ baseball caps. We sized each other up. They sighed in pity. I laughed a little under my breath. You couldn’t pay either of us to trade shoes.

Been there, done that. Sometimes, I even love that. But, not tonight.

Tonight, it’s quiet. The sheets are warm. The dog is cuddly.
And this is happy new year.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Happy Birthday, Jesus

Mrs. Claus stopped by my parents’ house on Christmas Eve…


And, like every other girl who’s ever gone to a party dressed as Santa’s helper, she promptly took off all her clothes…


My sister-in-law, Trish, yelled, “No, Lucy, you can’t do that here. She loves to run around naked, but if you don’t watch her, she’ll pee on the floor.”

Then, we all watched her pee on the floor.

Trish immediately commenced to apologizing profusely. My dad cut her off mid-sentence, “Honey, if I had a nickel for every time a naked baby peed on this floor…”

“But this is your new carpet,” she said.

“This carpet was specially chosen to hide all manner of naked baby stains. Don't worry about it.”

My brother, hunched over the puddle on his hands and knees, Febreze in hand, was decidedly less apologetic about the whole thing. In the middle of his scrubbing, he looked up at me and muttered, “You know what I say...better his carpet than mine.”

“This is nothing,” my sister said. “Last week Logyn was standing naked over the nativity set and she peed all over the baby Jesus.”

“Wait a minute,” I said, “That nativity set? The one on top of the cedar chest?” The small glass figurines sit on top of a three foot high antique cabinet in front of my parents’ living room window.

“Yes, that nativity set. It’s the only one we have.”

“How the hell did she get up there?" I asked. "Did she climb the tree?”

“No," said my sister, rolling her eyes as if a naked baby perched atop the furniture was perfectly normal, but a naked baby climbing the Christmas tree was somehow beyond absurd. "I put her up there.”

“You took off all her clothes and then put her in the front window?”

"She had a diaper rash, so I was letting her run around naked to air out a bit. She likes to wave goodbye to Mom when she leaves for work. So, when Mom left, I stood her on the cedar chest to wave. Then she peed. Right there. All over the baby Jesus.”

“You know,” I said, “this kind of thing might go a long way towards explaining why the neighbors didn’t send a card this year.”

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Together

I was supposed to make dinner for Blake and Evan on Friday. At the last minute, I canceled. On my way home from work, I suddenly realized how exhausted I was from days and days of case management bullshit and no real medicine. I was completely drained. I spent the drive home thinking, Pull yourself together, T. Pick up a bottle of wine, change out of these scrubs, and start cooking. It's just a meal. Certainly, you can get through a meal.

I drove to the store, parked out front, and then and there, I lost my tenuous grip on together. I wasn't really crying so much as I was leaking from my tear ducts. I sat in that parking spot, and as the mascara dripped down my face, sent Blake a text message. I lied a little, telling him I had just gotten out of work. I didn't feel like explaining that I had actually gotten out twenty minutes earlier and had spent the time since unsuccessfully trying to pull myself together.

I apologized about dinner. He said not to worry about it, that he'd call me later.

He called me later. I didn't pick up. I was afraid that the moment I heard his voice I'd lose it again. Do you know that feeling? That feeling of being held together by such a threadbare strand that any kind word, any tenderness, any hint that this may be a safe place to fall will completely unravel you?

It was that feeling.

I took that feeling to bed. And, although I didn't exactly awake to a new day restored, refreshed, and ready to take on the world, I did feel a hell of a lot better after 15 hours of sleep.

Last night, there was bread dipped in cheese, fried meat, and chocolate--a much happier subject for a forthcoming much better post. Today, there was work. It was still a fair bit of case management bullshit--entirely too much time spent arranging home oxygen for a person who's probably never going to wear it (except maybe while she's smoking). But, there was also a bit of real medicine (nothing like a little respiratory distress to make a girl feel needed).

All's well that ends well, I suppose.

On that note, I'm headed back to bed. The threadbare strand seems to be heavily reinforced by hours of sleep. And well, as they say...physician, heal thyself.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

A weekend in New York: The fourth (and final) chapter

After Seasons of Love, Graci and I headed back to the hotel. It was late, and our feet had been in heels long enough.

The next morning, she and I got up early to take a walk in much more sensible shoes. We got off the train at Union Square, stopped in a coffee shop to treat our caffeine withdrawal headaches. Cups in hand, we strolled up Fifth Avenue.

We walked and talked, and before we knew it, we were at Rockefeller Center. We stopped to watch the ice skaters. Graci had the same reaction I did the first time I saw the rink, “I didn’t realize it was so small.”

I pointed out the least graceful thing on the ice—a ruddy faced girl with her legs splayed a bit too wide, knees wobbling, arms braced for a fall, feet scooting more than gliding her along. “That would be me,” I said.

“I was just thinking the same thing,” she said...and then, to clarify, “I was thinking that would be me, not that that would be you. Although, now that you’ve said it, I can sort of see that that would be you, too.”

She pointed to the most skillful skater on the rink, a young boy who deftly weaved around the ruddy faced girl. “He’s really very good,” I agreed.

“Yes,” she said, “but I think there’s something wrong with him. He has a funny shaped head.”

“What do you think it is?”

“I don’t know,” she said.

“This is why you should have gone into Peds.”

“So we could diagnose congenital defects at Rockefeller Center?”

“Exactly.”

She shook her head and rolled her eyes a bit. We walked on. Ten blocks later, we were at the foot of Central Park. “Well,” I said, “do you want to head back, or should we walk through the park?” As if I even had to ask.

When Graci came to visit me during the month I stayed in New York, walking in the park was our favorite thing to do. In the park, it is both easy to forget that your in the middle of a city and impossible to imagine that you’re anywhere but New York. On a cool but sunny early Sunday morning, it was full of locals—young couples with strollers, older people with their grand kids, and lots and lots of dogs.

We meandered through the zoo, pausing to watch the sea lions swim a few laps. My coffee was empty and we had both walked up a bit of an appetite, so we stopped to share a bagel and refill my cup. We ate our bagel at a small, wobbly table near the coffee cart in the middle of a scene from Hitchcock’s The Birds. The entertainment was provided by a woman who fed bits of muffin to her three tiny dogs who sat in a stroller across from her chair. As they opened their mouths for food, they looked like baby birds, their stroller like a nest on wheels. When actual birds hopped across the woman’s table, hoping for a snack, she hissed and batted them away. Graci and I laughed.

“The irony of this is, apparently, lost on her,” I said.

“Apparently,” said Graci. “But, you know, that’s what my mother would be if she lived here.” It’s true. She already has a Chihuahua and a miniature Jack Russell terrier. She’s really just a toy poodle and a dog stroller away from Central Park crazy.

After our bagel, we headed back to the hotel. It was that time. A weekend that has taken me entirely too long to write about was, in reality, entirely too short. I’m not going to write much about what it was like to say goodbye to Graci, except to say that it was sad. You know what sad looks like, right? If not, I’m sure a woman named Ingrid has posted a picture of it online somewhere. Google it.

I’m also not going to write much about what it was like to actually catch our bus back to Baltimore, except to say that I am not sorry for yelling at that customer service representative on the phone. That’s what you get for working for a company that sends people the wrong confirmation numbers. You get yelled at. There are better people—people who understand that it’s probably not really your fault that the numbers are wrong, who understand that yelling at you does no real good. There are these better people, but they take the train.

The ride back to Baltimore was long. And boring. And once again, we didn’t really sit with each other. Blake was in the row behind me. I spent half the trip twisted around in my seat, talking to him. I told him one or two things about myself I probably wouldn’t have if I hadn’t been so tired. He said all the right things in return. When I turned back around after our conversation, I had to swallow hard to keep from tearing up.

I never see friendship coming. It always sneaks up on me. It somehow both knocks the wind out of me out, and then catches me...just as I’m sure I’m going to fall off my skates.

A weekend in New York: Chapter three

As we settled into our seats, just before they lowered the lights, I texted my friend Josie…

At Wicked with some friends who were dying to see it. My first Broadway show without you…it won’t be the same.

Josie took me to my first show, Hairspray, six years ago. We drove to New York from Ohio, arriving just a few hours before the show started. We didn’t have tickets. Josie never has tickets ahead of time. She doesn't need them. We walked up to the box office. She said, “I need your two best seats.” The man behind the glass mentioned something about row Y. She said, “No, no…you misunderstood. I need your best seats.”

In the end, we sat in the sixth row in the center. I’ve seen several musicals with her since—Aida, Rent, Wicked. We’ve never had tickets ahead of time. When you’re with Josie, you don’t need them.

The first time I saw Wicked, it was from the very first row. These seats are not actually considered the best in the house, but, until just recently, they were my favorites. Wicked was sold out, but the seats in the first row were raffled off a few hours before the show. When we stood in line for the raffle, Josie said, rather matter-of-factly, "I'm going to win two tickets for tonight, and then we'll go shopping and get a bite to eat before the show starts." At this point, I had known her long enough that I would have been surprised if we had walked away without the tickets. She is luck and magic, and while she can't seem to find a decent man (or her keys), she can, in moments like this, bend the very laws of the universe to her will.

Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth were on stage that night. Stephen Oremus was conducting. By the end of the show, I had a huge crush on Stephen. (Some well-meaning reader is headed to the comments section now to tell me that I’m probably not really his type. Thank you, well-meaning reader.) I loved those front row seats because I loved being so close to the orchestra. There was something about seeing them play. I remember staring at the sheet music on the piano below, part of me wishing I could sit right there, on that bench.

This time, I sat in between Evan and Graci. It is a new favorite seat. Watching these two watch a musical is a joy in and of itself. At the end Defying Gravity, the lights came up for the intermission and revealed Evan, crying. Because, as he said, "It was just so beautiful." That is, in fact, how I would describe Evan: Here is a man who cries when it is just so beautiful. Graci was choking back tears of her own.

Blake looked at Evan, laughed, and said, “I knew it! I knew you were crying! I thought, when the lights come up, he’s going to be crying.” I could say something like…and that is, in fact, how I would describe Blake: Here is a man who laughs at other men when they cry. But, to be fair, he doesn't laugh at all crying men, just the one he's in love with. He’s not completely insensitive, just mostly.

At the end of For Good, Mr. Mostly Insensitive was the only one of the four of us with dry eyes. It was then that we diagnosed his condition—congenital absence of tear ducts. He didn’t choose this dry lifestyle. He was born like this. He can’t help it.

After the show, we made our way to the West Village. In the planning of this weekend, Evan found Marie’s Crisis, a bar where everyone stands around a piano in a space the size of your bathroom and sings show tunes all night. This is, perhaps, where the case for planning can be made. Sometimes, through some online research done ahead of time, you find something great. You make plans to go there. Then you go, and it’s great, and you can say, “Hey, that was great. I’m glad we planned it.”

I imagine that’s what Blake and Evan say about all 800 of those pictures from Europe. I’d ask, but then I’d be subjecting myself to 800 stories in which I play not even a supporting role. Who has the patience for that? I'm kidding, of course. I'm very interested in what their lives were like before they knew me. (Just not 800 stories interested.)

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, Marie’s Crisis. It looked exactly like this…


Exactly. We stood in that very spot and sang along as that very person, a guy named Dexter, played that very piano. (Thank you, woman named Ingrid, for posting the above photo online.)

Dexter was playing a lot of fabulous stuff—Chicago when we first got there, Mary Poppins (which sounds lame but is really sort of surprisingly fun to sing in a large, drunk group), Hair, Little Shop of Horrors—but no Rent.

At some point, Blake leaned over to me and said, “You should yell Rent in your lesbian voice.” I don’t really have the space here to fully explain that lesbian bit, except to say that I’m not actually a lesbian. I just look butch compared to all those Georgia peaches Blake is used to. I mean, I do listen to a little Indigo Girls, recycle, donate to the HRC, and get annoyed at people who don’t know the difference between a Flathead and a Phillips screwdriver. But still, I’m a cultural lesbian, at best.

There was a lull in the music. A boy chirped, “Guys and Dolls.” I bellowed, “RENT.” Someone behind me said, “Well...the bulldyke has spoken.” And Dexter started Seasons of Love. Exactly what I was hoping for when, in my butchest voice, I politely made the request. Evan was sitting right next to the piano. This song is one of his best. He taps into his inner Black woman and does Joanne’s solo, complete with high note. It is magnificent.

And it was magnificent.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

A weekend in New York: Chapter two

When we got into the city, the first thing we did was get lost...just to get that out of the way. We climbed out of the subway, from which you could nearly spit on our hotel, and, at my instruction, walked in the opposite direction for two blocks. It would be nice to say that I then realized we were going the wrong way, turned us around, and steered us back to the hotel; but I think that might have actually been someone else. (When you’re trying to choose a partner for the Amazing Race, and you find you’ve narrowed it down to Terroni and Blake, alphabetize your list and pick the one on top.)

Graci was waiting for us in the hotel lobby. When I saw her, I resisted the nearly overwhelming urge to squeal like a girl. She gave me a hug, resisting her nearly overwhelming urge to squeeze me like a frog. We checked into our rooms—boys in one, girls in the other—like church camp. When we got into our room, Graci did, in fact, squeeze me like a frog. I would have squealed like a girl, but I couldn’t move air past my vocal cords.

After dropping our bags, we all headed out to find a snack. Blake pulled out his iPhone to look for somewhere to eat. Five minutes later, we were standing in front of a Chipotle.

“Did you tell them I wanted to come here?” Graci asked.

“No,” I said. "This was fate."

We ate and then meandered to Ground Zero where we saw a construction site, some cranes, and a large group of Amish tourists who looked sort of like they’d rather be back in Amish Country. Interesting, because the last time I toured Amish Country, I looked sort of like I'd rather be at a construction site.

We went back to the hotel, got dressed for the evening, and headed out for drinks, dinner, and the show. We started with beers at a pub in Greenwich Village. I don’t remember where we were, what everyone drank, or what the hell we talked about. I just remember that we laughed. A lot. When I am an old woman and can't remember anything we actually do together, I will simply think of these three as the people who make me laugh until my stomach hurts.

After drinks, we walked a few blocks to Lupa for dinner. Now, when Evan and Graci tell you this story, they’ll say that, as he told us about the specials, Blake and I, our mouths watering, looked as though we might just eat the waiter.

Evan and Graci are lying bitches.

Interestingly enough, the waiter didn’t feel the same way about me and Blake as we (allegedly) felt about him. He felt that way about (and all over) Evan instead.

During dinner, Evan's metro card fell out of his pocket. The waiter spotted it on the floor and returned it to his lap. He was an amateur cartographer. Evan's lap was uncharted territory. Since he was there anyway, returning the card, he meandered a bit to survey the landscape.

When he dropped off the check later, he apologized, “I’m sorry about that earlier. I didn’t know if you just dropped your card, or if you were maybe…”

Evan cut him off there, “That’s okay. Thanks for picking up the card.”

“What was that about?” I asked.

“He felt me up earlier.”

“He what?” I said.

If I had a nickel for every time I’ve dropped shit out of my pockets, my purse, my bag, my backpack, I’d be able to pay off my med school debt. You could trace my very steps with the trail of personal belongings I am constantly leaving behind. And still, not once has someone taken this as an invitation to grope me. Hell, I had a boob fall out of my bra once and no one tried to cop a feel.

There’s something about Evan, though. He’s five feet, eight inches, one hundred and fifteen pounds of pure gorgeous, and people just can’t keep their hands off him. Even I have grabbed his ass and, maybe once, rubbed his chest a little bit. Me, the epitome of self restraint, unwittingly drawn in by his animal magnetism. It's hard to believe, I know. But, like I said...there's just something about him.

We left the restaurant around 7:30 pm and caught a train uptown. We weren’t in any great hurry because we knew the musical started at 8:30. By we, I mean everyone but Graci. She kept whispering, “Are you sure it’s 8:30? Because I really think it starts at 8:00. I think that if we don’t run, we’re going to miss this show.” Evan had the tickets in his pocket. In order to placate her, I finally asked him to check the time on them again.

It was then that we began the running.

Evan was on my left. Blake was out ahead of us, looking for all the world like an Olympic speed walker. I turned to my right to say something to Graci, something like, "I always wondered what he might look like if his ass were on fire. Now I know.” When she wasn’t there, I spun around, fully expecting to find her a few steps back, cursing her short legs.

There was a sea of people behind me. But no Graci.

“Oh my God,” I said to Evan. “Where the fuck is she?”

She doesn’t walk as fast as I do, and I assumed she just couldn’t keep up. “Go on ahead,” I told him. “I’m going to find her and we’ll see you there.” He ran to catch up with Blake. I stood on the curb and watched the crowd walk by, scanning the faces for her. Still, no Graci. I started to walk back towards the subway stop. With each step, I got a bit more panicked. Suddenly, missing the show was the least of my concerns.

Just as I'd convinced myself that she had been stolen and sold for parts, my phone ran. It was her. “Where the fuck are you?” I yelled. Because nothing says, I'm glad you're okay, quite like screaming obscenities.

“I’m up here with Blake,” she said, nonchalantly. “Where are you?”

“Never mind,” I said. “I’ll see you at the theater.”

I’d like to take a moment here to apologize to what I’m sure was a very nice man from Kansas who I may have, shall we say, jostled out of my way at the corner of 43rd and 7th. The thing is, running through Times Square at 7:53 on a rainy Saturday night in high heels is a take no prisoners kind of sport, and that was just not the best place for you to stop and pull out your map.

A few blocks later, I called Evan to ask where they were and figure out how far I had to go to catch up. As it turned out, they were on the other side of the street. Two blocks behind me. “How the hell did you end up in front of us?” he asked.

“Well,” I said, “you guys ran around people. I ran over them.”

In the end, we all made it to the theater on time. Three of us looked like theater goers. One of us looked like she’d just sprinted ten blocks in the rain and side tackled a grown man to the ground.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A weekend in New York: Chapter one

When Blake and Evan started talking about going to see Wicked, I sort of thought it was just one of those things—one of those things you talk about doing but never actually get around to. I did hope to be back in New York this year. It’s centrally located between here and New Haven. I figured that Graci and I would meet there when we could find a weekend off and a reasonable deal on a hotel. She and I would stay a few days, walk around the city, drink coffee, chat, drink beer, chat some more, hang out...like we do. I thought that would be the extent of it.

When Blake and Evan mentioned Wicked, I was all over it. “We should do that!” I said. “I love that show, and Graci has always wanted to see it, too. She’ll have to come down for the weekend.” Then, before I knew what was happening, we were really doing it.

I’m going to have to make a note of this bizarre actually doing the things you say you’re going to do phenomenon on the off chance that they someday suggest, say, robbing a bank. Or worse, camping. I tend to reflexively agree with nebulous plans, confident that I’ll never actually have to break any federal laws or sleep on the ground. Not with these two, though. These two really do the stuff they talk about doing. Like I said…it’s completely bizarre.

Not only do they do these things. They plan them. Evan texted me last week, days (days, I tell you) before we would actually be consuming the meal, to ask where we were going to eat on Saturday night. “Do we need reservations?” he wanted to know.

I called Graci. “Well, shit,” I said. “They want to plan the weekend. The whole weekend. Planned. Evan asked me today where we were going to eat. I was thinking, uh, I don't know. Somewhere that serves food close to wherever we happen to be when we’re hungry.

You know, when they went to Europe, they did stuff. They did Europe. They planned it, and then they did it. I’ve seen the pictures. They’re doing things in all 800 of them. Do you know what we would do if we went to Europe?”

“We’d walk around Europe,” she said, matter-of-factly.

“Yes. We’d walk around Europe. We’d show up, drop our bags at the hotel, and then we’d go walk around Europe. I mean, when we go to Florida, we basically do nothing for three weeks straight. We go nowhere. We see no one. We do nothing.”

“We walk around the beach,” she offered.

“That’s all we do. We walk around Florida.”

“Yeah,” she said, wistfully. “I love that. But back to dinner…can we go to Chipotle?”

“Um, I’m pretty sure that when Evan asked if I’d made reservations yet, he didn’t mean, ‘Do you think we can get a table at Chipotle?’”

“But I love Chipotle. And we still don’t have one in New Haven. Do you know how long it’s been since I’ve had a burrito bowl?” she asked, with more than a hint of desperation in her voice.

“Listen, you and I can go to Chipotle on Sunday before we leave. Saturday night, though, I think we’re going to have to eat at a real restaurant. Somewhere they take reservations, perhaps.”

She sighed. “Alright…as long as at some point during this weekend we can get a burrito bowl.”

“Deal,” I said.

I got off the phone, shook my head, and laughed. They wanted me to find a place with a nice wine list. She wanted to eat at a Mexican fast food chain. I probably should have been a little worried, but something about that amused me.

On Saturday morning, I met the boys at their apartment and we headed for the train station. At the train station, we caught a bus to New York. (And you thought we’d be taking a train, didn’t you? Yes, well, in hindsight, they may have been a better plan.)

The Bolt Bus runs in between Baltimore and New York. The word Bolt and the accompanying streak of lightning painted on the side seemed to imply that this trip would be happening with some speed. The implication is there because, well, have you ever seen slow lightning?

I have, actually. It is painted on the side of a bus that runs in between Baltimore and New York. This particular bolt of not-so-greased lightning arrived a half hour late and then sat on the side of the road for another twenty minutes while the driver mounted his soapbox and delivered an impassioned speech on the annoyance of cell phones—a speech I missed, for the most part, as I was busy, checking my voicemail.

Blake, Evan, and I were some of the last to board the bus. We looked for three seats reasonably close to each other and found them in the back. Blake and I ended up in aisle seats across from one another. Evan was behind us on the end of row of three, the last row on the bus. He had a couple of young marrieds on his left—a guy with longer legs than any single bus seat could contain and some lovable little idiot he called his wife. On Evan’s right was the door to the bathroom. Whenever someone opened it, he had to crawl into the leggy guy’s lap to avoid being smacked in the forehead with the door.

Blake had a somewhat similar experience in that the girl next to him spent three hours trying to crawl into his lap, just because she thought that might be a nice place to sit.

Thus began a series of frantic texts messages that went like this…
She’s touching me.
She’s touching me A LOT.
She won’t stop.

I tried to comfort him by saying things like…
What can I say, man?
You’re a handsome fella.
She wants you.
She wants you bad.

He threw up in his mouth a little.
I resolved to quit bitching about how much I pay for my texting plan as this made it worth every penny.

I was sitting next to a perfectly lovely, well-groomed woman in her 30s. She stayed in her own space and was not at all fidgety. Unfortunately, she clearly wanted to chat a bit. This necessitated a change in seat assignments.

She was grading papers. Evan is a teacher. They had something in common. Plus, he’s sweet and charming. He wouldn’t mind making small talk. It was a match made in bus trip heaven. She looked a me a little funny when I turned around and motioned for him to trade me seats. I wanted to say, “Trust me, lady, I’m doing this for you. You’re going to love this guy. I love this guy, and I don’t even really like most people.”

In truth, of course, I was doing it for me. The nagging guilt from blatantly ignoring her obvious need to chit chat was gnawing at me and keeping me from fully enjoying my book. And, given the choice between making small talk with a stranger and being smacked in the forehead repeatedly with a bathroom door, I will choose the bathroom door. Every time.

Evan and I switched seats. Some guy who had consumed more Gatorade during the first half of the bus trip than my dad did during his last marathon headed my way. As he reached for the bathroom door, I scrambled into the lap of the leggy dude next to me. A baby started to fuss nearby. The leggy dude’s wife turned, gazed up at him with her big doe eyes, blinked a few times, and asked, “Why do babies cry?” He looked at me in desperation. It was look that said not, How do I explain this? but rather, Why did I marry this? I shrugged my shoulders and went back to my book.

A couple hours later, we were in New York. I had been in and out of a guy’s lap more than an industrious stripper. Evan had made a new friend. Blake had unwittingly gone to second base with the girl sitting next to him.

On that note, I think I’ll stop here for now. Blake’s not much of a reader. Before he started my blog, it was pretty much just cereal boxes and his own Facebook page. Remember when you first started reading? You didn’t dive right into Anna Karenina. No, you began with tiny chapter books. They slowly eased you, the young reader, into novels. Similarly, I think it’s best that I don’t make these posts too long, so as not to overwhelm my friend. I would hate to discourage the guy before he gains the confidence to tackle, say, a whole People magazine.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Your people will think you're dead

Graci called me last night and said, "You remember when you first wrote about me in your blog? It was that one time when I told you that you had to write something or your people were going to think you were dead. Well, now they do. Have you seen those comments? They think you are dead."

And then, with her special brand of supportive encouragement, she said, quite simply, "BLOG, BITCH."

So here I am, a blogging bitch. After so much time you'd think I'd have a lot to talk about. But, as it always the case when I stay away for too long, somehow the more that happens, the less I have to say about it all.

Speaking of Graci, I'm getting ready for a little weekend trip during which I get to see her. The very thought of it makes me unbelievably excited--dance around your kitchen squealing like a girl excited--and a little bit scared. I say scared because I know how Graci hugs a person she hasn't seen in awhile. It's like handing a frog to a toddler. She'll squeeze me until my eyes bug out and I pee on myself a little. I'm looking forward to every incontinent minute of it.

In between getting ready shit (laundry, dishes, a haircut, and the like), I'm going to try to post a snippet or two--little pieces of things that have happened over the past few weeks.


And he's pretty much been ignoring me ever since

A funny thing happened on the way to Blake reading my blog...namely, a month of him not ever actually reading my blog.

On the morning of October 26th, just after I had written my I know you all think I'm one bad ass motherfucker but I'm secretly an intermittently lonely and incredibly vulnerable chick only cleverly disguised as a bad ass motherfucker post, I walked into work to get report from Blake who was working nights. He said, "I've been searching for your blog for the last hour."

I said, "What do you mean you've been searching for it...I sent you that text telling you where it was a month ago."

"No you didn't."

"Yes, I did."

"No. You didn't."

"Yes. I did."

"No. You didn't."... and on that went.

Awestruck witnesses could not help but draw comparisons between the brilliance of this riveting tete-a-tete and the famed Lincoln-Douglas debates. The former was made even more impressive by its accompanied feverish search through our cell phone text message records for proof that I had, in fact, told Blake about the blog.

"October 5th. There it is. You said, 'Evan said that I should be the sham wow guy and you should be the hooker that beat me up for Halloween.'

And then I said, 'Evan is a genius. That would actually make for a great blog post. Speaking of which...google Terroni and look for the one that's not an Italian eatery.'"

"Oh that? I didn't know what the hell you were talking about, so I just ignored that."

"Well, that will teach you to ignore me."


Stupid fucking pheromones

So, there's this guy. And something about him makes me stupid. I actually have to avoid thinking about him in detail now so that I can tell this story with a real subject followed by a verb sentence or two.

He works on Friday nights, supervising admissions in the ER. The rest of the week, he manages a primary care practice in the suburbs. He and I met for the first time months ago. It was a simple, straightforward case. Diverticulitis. The physical exam revealed left lower quadrant abdominal pain in a post-menopausal slightly overweight woman who probably hasn't eaten any real fiber since 1984. The patient said, "My primary care doctor said that I probably have diverticulitis." The CT scan reading said, Hey Terroni, your patient has diverticulitis.

Simple. Straightforward. A high school kid with access to Google and a Grey's Anatomy rerun could have treated this patient.

I walked out of the room and headed for a computer to enter my admission orders.

Then, he walked in.

I don't know what it is about him. He's cute, but not empirically beautiful. It's not like when he walks into a room 90% of the women and 10% of the men swoon. But, there's something there...a pheromone thing, perhaps?

He said, "Do you want to go over this admission?"

"Uh, sure," I said. So far, so good. Notice how I don't yet sound like someone who's recently suffered a closed head injury.

"So, what do you think is going on here?"

And this is where it all falls apart. "Uh...I don't know."

"Ok. Did you see the patient?"

"Yeah..."

"And, did you see the CT results?"

"Uh huh, I saw those."

"Ok...so do you have any ideas about what might be going on here?"

I was thinking, I know what I wish was going on here, and holy shit, lips that beautiful should not be allowed to be worn out in public. I stared at him. Studied him like he was a fucking piece of art.

He finally gave up on getting anything even semi-intelligent out of me and, a little deflated by his failed attempt at teaching, said, "Have you considered the possibility that she might have diverticulitis?"

"Uh...yeah," I said. "Sounds good."

We then painstakingly went through the patient's plan. A plan I had already written down but now could not articulate (or flip over my H&P form and simply read aloud) for the life of me.

Stupid fucking pheromones.

Fast forward several months to two weeks ago...

I was on call on Friday night and a had another simple, straightforward admission. I walked into the room, and there he was with the patient. I excused myself, pretending I had to answer a page. When he was done talking to the patient, I went in the room to do my history and physical.

A few minutes later, I headed back out with a simple, straightforward plan...and ran right into him. He was standing outside, waiting for me. We walked over to a tall counter next to some computers. He leaned on the counter and, as he did, bumped his head on a small overhead light. He laughed a little, looked at me, and said, "So...what do you want to do?"

I want to climb up you and lick your lips, I thought. That's what I want to do.

But a voice in my head screamed, "For the first time in your life, T, for the love of God, try not to say what you're thinking."

I stood there.
Silent.

He smiled and repeated himself, saying, "Tell me what you want to do."

At this point, I actually got a little annoyed.
Seriously, I thought, would it kill you to rephrase that question? How can anyone focus on a patient when you're walking around the ER with those lips saying things like that? Good lord, give it a rest already.

We eventually got through the admission. When he walked away, one of the other interns looked at me and said, "What the hell was that?" She had been sitting at a nearby computer, watching the whole thing.

"Shut up," I said, "it's not my fault. Stupid fucking pheromones."

She laughed.
She's been laughing at me for two weeks since.

Monday, October 26, 2009

7:11 am

Are you dead?
What's wrong?
I'm gonna call you in a minute...

That's the text message you get from Blake when you've overslept.

Then, as promised, he calls you in a minute. When you answer, he blurts out, "Ok. So you're not dead. What's wrong? Why aren't you at work?"

The first part is my favorite.

Ok. So you're not dead.

I like this for two reasons. First, it's good to establish that fact--the fact of you being not dead--early in the day. Second, it's nice to be reminded there are people who'd be a little panicked if you were.

I'm simply saying, if it weren't for that terribly jarring hour and a half late to work bit, this wouldn't be a bad way to start every day.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The best friend

Well, shit.
I really didn't intend to be away for so long.
It's always the same lame excuse here...I've been at work.
So there's that.

I've also been lonely lately. There's nothing that feels more pathetic than writing about loneliness, and loneliness feels pathetic enough all on its own. So there's also that.

It hit me last weekend like it does occasionally--completely out of the blue. Like being punched in the stomach, it literally knocked the wind out of me.

I was on call overnight. It was 4 am, and for the first time in eight hours, none of the four pagers were going off. I was lying on the bottom bunk in the call room. Patty Griffin was playing on my laptop. The room was dark.

All of the sudden, there it was.

I have been alone for awhile now, but I don't usually feel it like that. It's always there. But in that moment, it was the only thing there. It suddenly felt like I was drowning in it.

I sent Graci a text message. I miss you. As I sent it, I thought, she won't even see this for hours. But then, I wasn't at all surprised when my phone rang a minute later. As utterly lame as this sounds, I know no other way to describe it except to say, my head thought she wouldn't call and my heart knew she would.

"You're sad and lonely, huh?"

"Yeah," I said, "how'd you know?"

"Well, you're texting me at four in the morning. It was a pretty safe bet."

I laughed at my own transparency.

We talked about my night on call. I told her a story that made her laugh. (I'd share it here, but it's entirely too twisted to make you laugh. If you only knew the things my friend and I find funny...) Making her laugh somehow made it all okay. Alone was still there, but it wasn't the only thing there. It hasn't been back with such a vengeance since.

I just got off the phone with her again. She became an aunt for the first time this week. She's driving home from the airport tonight, tired after a quick trip home to love on a very lucky baby.

She'll be back there in no time, rocking that lucky little boy to sleep, reading Seuss...

The news just came in
From the County of Keck

That a very small bug
By the name of Van Vleck

Is yawning so wide
You can look down his neck.

This may not seem
Very important, I know.
But it is.
So I'm bothering
Telling you so.


Saturday, October 10, 2009

Saturday morning

Working nights has completely fucked up my sleep schedule. I realize that language may seem a bit strong, but I assure you it is the only accurate description for what has happened to my circadian rhythms.

I fell asleep at about eleven o'clock last night in a chair in Blake and Evan's living room. I awoke an hour later to find Evan asleep on the couch a few feet away. He had a snoring old Dachshund curled up next to him, her nose tucked in his armpit. I got up, kissed them both on the head, and padded down the hall to the spare room.

I am not generally a physically affectionate person...unless you're asleep. (That sounds creepy, doesn't it?) Growing up, I shared a room with my younger sisters; and every night, before I went to bed, I would kiss their sleeping foreheads. (It was occasionally a bit creepy, but only because my youngest sister tended to sleep with one eye open and I had to close that freaky thing before I could kiss her.)

Last night, without thinking a thing of it, I reflexively kissed Evan and the dog the same way I used to kiss my sisters. As I was brushing my teeth, I realized what I had just done and laughed at myself a bit. I have noticed that the older I get, the more I treat my friends as though they're family. When I am too tired to think about it, I become, by default I suppose, everyone's older sister.

I woke up this morning at 4 am and have been up ever since. (See what I mean? Completely fucked up.) Around six, I heard Blake's footsteps in the bathroom above me and figured I might as well get out of bed and make some coffee. It seemed the least I could do for the poor guy who has to work this weekend.

Blake and Evan's apartment has huge, high, east facing windows. As I was waiting for the coffee to finish percolating, I noticed the morning light sneaking through the mini blinds. They were begging to be opened. I acquiesced and found a reason to stop bemoaning my broken circadian rhythms.

Through sheets of purple clouds, the sun was casting a hazy, yellow light over the city. Old industrial plants, train tracks, the still quiet, mostly empty overpass - held in this light, it all suddenly looked...amazing.

Ahh... I thought, so this is what you miss when you're sleeping in.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Some assembly required

I came home from vacation, stepped through my front door, and was struck by two, well...striking realizations. It's time to get a boyfriend. And move the couch. Not necessarily in that order. Although, in hindsight, perhaps I should have paid a bit more attention to the order. Then, the boyfriend could have moved the couch.

I rearranged the furniture and then went to Ikea to buy a rocking chair and a lamp. That's the danger in moving a couch—you may discover a huge empty spot in your living room that now cries out for a rocking chair and a lamp. While I was out, I considered picking up a boyfriend as well, but then thought better of it. Everything from Ikea has to be assembled, and the assembly is always a disaster. It all comes with these instructions drawn out in cartoons of a doughy bald man building furniture. You look at them and think, piece of cake. You don't even have to be literate to do this. In fact, literacy would unnecessarily complicate such a straightforward task. Surely that's why Ikea has chosen, in its infinite Swedish wisdom, to leave these directions unencumbered by the written word.

Twenty minutes later, you find yourself staring in disbelief at that doughy bald cartoon man, telling yourself, "This simply cannot be this hard. I mean look at that neckless moron in the picture. He got the chair put together, and he doesn't even have thumbs." And then you swear at that smug thumbless son of a bitch.

This rocker was actually a bit more difficult than my previous Swedish masterpieces because one of the sides didn't have the appropriate screw holes. This necessitated a return trip to Ikea for a replacement part. It was there, in line at the return and exchange department that I met the angriest people on the planet. These are people who have spent hours, sometimes days, yelling things like, "Who the fuck are you smiling at, asshole?" at the neckless cartoon man standing next to the kitchen cabinetry he just assembled in four steps. Without thumbs. With their own hands cramped into claws from the hours spent trying to rebuild Rome with an Allen wrench, they stood cultivating their growing rage at the Swedish furniture purveyor.

Next to the line there was a large sign--a drawing of several clocks with hours colored in green, yellow, and red explaining the best times to visit each day to avoid crowds. Basically, it's a sign next to the line explaining that if you had planned your trip better, you wouldn't be stuck in this damn line reading that sign. For example, if you took time off work to, say, visit Ikea at 10 am on a Tuesday, there would hardly be a line at all. The man behind me studied the sign, looked at the line, and then said, under his breath, "Fuck this place."

I finally got the piece I needed and, since I was there anyway, decided I'd pick up a few tea lights. I left with a few hundred. The other night, when I lit them all on my mantel, it looked like I was shooting a fucking music video in my living room—like at any moment, Celine might waltz through the front door to belt out Power of Love.

I will say, though, that the living room has been completely transformed by moving the couch, buying a rocker, and starting a few hundred tiny fires. In fact, I feel so much better having rearranged the furniture, I'm not even sure I'm going to need that boyfriend. It's just as well, because, like I said, I left Ikea without one. I didn't even look to see if they stock those. Although, I assume they do. You can buy everything from throw pillows to meatballs there. It only follows that you can probably pick up a flat packed, easy to assemble Swedish dude for like, two hundred bucks. Tops.

Like I said, I considered it, but then remembered that I'd have to actually put him together. With an Allen wrench. Frankly, two hours spent fighting with new boyfriend parts while swearing at a neckless cartoon moron only to end up with some poor Swedish guy with one leg just a little shorter than the other and the gnawing feeling that he might have been a bit better in bed if I had just splurged and gotten him from Pottery Barn... Well, that just didn't seem like the best way to start a relationship.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Because I said so

Blake wants to read the blog. I mentioned that I wrote about the impound incident. When I said that, I didn't really expect him to want to read what I'd written. I suppose it's only natural, though, to be a bit curious about how chunks of your own life might be playing out on the internet. But, it's been so long since someone asked to read this thing, I was completely caught of guard.

My mother asked to read it once, about a year ago. I said no. She asked why not. "Because I said so," I told her, smiling as I watched one of her favorite parenting lines come back to bite her in the ass. I reassured her that I write about her with obvious affection and suggested that she continue to be nice to me, so that I might continue to do so.

It's true. I've never written anything here about my family that they shouldn't read. I've never really written anything about myself they shouldn't see, either. I keep the sordid details of my hot, hot sex life, my psychotic tendencies, my bizarre neuroses, and my weird crush on Jackson Browne off the internet. For the most part.

And, if you've read this mindless dribble for any length of time, you know I really don't have much to say. But, once in a while, I have one of those days. It is on those days that I most love this little pile of mindless dribble.

There is something about writing to strangers, people who you don't have to see at work later that day, people who can't just call to check in—something about that just works for me.

There is nothing like the friends and family I have out here, in real life—people who see and hear and touch me, who read my body language and the tone in my voice, who (sometimes) know when my I'm fine is complete and utter bullshit.

But, there's also something about this, about all of you, way out there, in the distance, that (sometimes) lets me say, I'm not so fine. I am, at my core, a complete and utter chicken shit. Even on the best days, when I'm just telling a funny story, writing is inherently a bit vulnerable. You put it out there and then it's just, well...out there. It's easier to do that when no one knows it's you doing that.

Therein lies the problem with real life people reading this. Or maybe not. After all, Graci reads it, and that's actually sort of been a great thing. She seems to understand what this is for me. She knows that if I say something here that I haven't told her already, it's something I don't mind her knowing, but probably don't want to discuss.

Speaking of Graci, have I mentioned just how stinking much I miss that girl? So stinking much. And do you know what I really miss? There's just no way to say this without it sounding like the cheesiest, sappiest shit ever, so I'm just going to blurt it out...I miss the hugs. That's right. I miss the fucking hugs.

Graci used to give me a hug every day. She's a hugger. Me, not so much. If you lived with her, though, she'd hug you every day, too. Even if you had morning breath, or a communicable disease, or just finished ironing your shirt, she'd hug you. She doesn't care. She also doesn't ask, "Do you want a hug?" First, she knows that I would always say, "Nah, I'm good." And second, that's not really the point.

Graci doesn't hug you because you want a hug, or need a hug, or even because you might secretly like hugs. Graci hugs you because she loves you. It's part of the deal. Because she loves without reservation—every day, even when you have morning breath, or a communicable disease, or are entirely too invested in stupid shit like your shirt, she hugs you that way.

And I miss it.

I'm also missing my train of thought. Where was I? Oh yes...the blog. Graci doesn't read this and then ask, "What's wrong? Are you okay? Are you sure you're okay? Really? Because you didn't sound okay." (Thank God, as that would be a reason to quit writing...and start strangling). She gets me. She knows I'm claustrophobic, that I sometimes need a safe distance. She respected that even when we lived in the same small apartment. I wrote a post on one end of the couch. She read it on the other.

When I told my mother, "No...because I said so," what I meant was, "You will not be able to respect that. You'll try, but you won't be able to help yourself. You'll be reading between the lines and calling to ask, Are you okay? Are you sure you're okay... and then I'll have to start strangling. You. I'll have to strangle you. "

Graci also never reads this and then says, "Uh...you know, that wasn't that great. Not so funny." Pointing out the (not so) occasional typo is where her editing starts and stops. Again, she gets me. She knows that this is all just stuff in the rough and that I generally don't have it in me to graciously accept constructive criticism here. Besides, brutal honesty isn't really her style. Instead, she just tells me to keep writing. Even when the writing sucks.

Now we have Blake, who I write about with obvious affection but have, so far, told, "No...because I said so." By that I meant, "Dude, we haven't known each other that long and, occasionally, there's something here that I wouldn't just tell someone I haven't known for that long. I save that shit for people I don't know at all." And also, "We pick on each other, sometimes mercilessly, and I can't be mercilessly picked on for what I write here. I just don't have it in me."

This morning, however, he showed up with coffee. I worked all night, and he brought me coffee. Something about that (something he laced the coffee with, no doubt) made me think maybe he could read the blog.

Hopefully, he won't read it as some sort of request to start hugging me. It's really just an attempt to get more coffee.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Three plots

The conversation started when my sister opened my grandma’s freezer.

“Holy shhi…uh, crap, Grandma, that’s a lot of ham. Who died?”

“No one yet. But we have one who’s going to be going pretty soon. The ACME just happened to have ham on sale last week, so I’m stocking up.”

Grandma, The Head Deaconess, is in charge of her church’s funeral dinners. It’s the perfect job for her as it makes use of all of her talents: buying food on sale, overcooking it, bossing around everyone who’s not The Head Deaconess, and standing around the church kitchen to talk about which brazen hussy mourner’s skirt is entirely too short for a funeral.

“How do you know when someone’s on their way out?” my sister asked.

“Honey, that’s what the prayer chain’s for. Well, that and prayer, of course. Speaking of ham, that reminds me of your Uncle Tom.”

Everything reminds her of our Uncle Tom. There’s something about a 45 year old man who has never married, who still has the used furniture he bought in college, who replaces his toothbrush annually when his mom puts a new one in his stocking, who makes a couple million a year but has his parents drive an hour to pick him up from the airport at Christmas because he doesn’t want to spend money on a rental car…there’s something about him that makes Grandma think, “You know what would make this really nice? If Tommy were here.” (Actual words uttered on a warm, sunny day as she sat in a lounge chair on a deck overlooking the ocean during a vacation purchased for her by my mother.)

She went on to explain to my mom why the funeral ham reminded her of her golden child…

“You know how your father and I have those two plots out at Rosemont cemetery.”

“Yes, I remember when you bought them from those guys who had little silver shovels on their tie clips.”

I couldn’t help but interrupt, “You bought burial plots from men wearing shovels?”

“I always thought that was a pretty tacky,” said my mom.

Grandma ignored our little side conversation and continued, “Well, you know how your dad has never really like Rosemont.”

“I did not know that,” my mom said, cocking her head to the side and nodding a bit, as if this was a fascinating thing to learn about her own father.

“Well, he’s never liked it out there. And since I do the funeral dinners, he’s been asking around…you know, to see where people are being buried these days.”

“That has to be one of the best parts of attending so many funerals,” my mom said, “the opportunity to research these things.”

“It is!” said Grandma, a little excited that someone else could appreciate that. “And we’ve decided we’re going to sell those plots and go somewhere else. We were thinking of Oakwood, but they’re full. Well, except for that one spot on the corner, but that’s where all those kids walk past after school and throw their trash. If you’re going to go there, you might as well just be buried in the middle of 4th street.”

I took a break from the veggie dip to ask, “Are there spots in the middle of 4th street? Because if so, I bet you could get a deal on those.”

“Plus,” my sister added, “it probably wouldn’t be very crowded. I doubt a lot of people buy plots in the median.”

Grandma looked at us a bit quizzically, briefly considered answering that, and then decided against it.

“The same people who own Oakwood have just opened a new place out in Stow. Your dad and I have been out there and we both really like it. I think we’re going to buy three plots out there.”

Three plots.

Suddenly, we saw how this story, like all long and winding roads, would eventually lead us back to Tom.

“I was just thinking, if Tommy never gets married, I don’t want him to have to be all alone. So, we’ll just buy three plots and then he’ll have one if he wants it.”

My sister then asked the obvious question, “So Grandma, where exactly would you like us to put him? Next to Grandpa? Next to you? Or…” she asked, her eyes widening with an ingenious idea, “in between you two, maybe?”

“Oh honey,” Grandma said, “it doesn’t matter to me. Wherever is fine.”

“In that case,” my sister said, “I think we should put him in between you guys. Like a metaphor,” she added, under her breath.

Mom snorted and tried to cover it up by pretending to clear her throat. I choked on a small piece of green pepper.

“And like I said,” Grandma continued, “he doesn’t even have to use it. I mean, if he wants to be buried somewhere in Florida with his Mexican girlfriend, that’s fine too.”

But you know she didn’t really mean that.

And, assuming my mother’s children outlive Grandma's Tommy, we will someday pay a couple men with shovels on their tie clips to carve out a cozy little spot for him right in between his parents. Like a metaphor.

Because, we would hate to have her lying there for all eternity thinking, “You know what would make this really nice…”

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Next time, they can keep the car

The boys’ flight landed at 8:30 that night and they got home around 9. “Ok,” Blake said, “so where do we have to go to get your car?”

“Well, that’s the thing…it’s the last neighborhood in Baltimore you want to drive into at this hour with three hundred bucks in cash in your pocket.”

“Where is it?”

“West.”

“West like on The Wire west?” asked Evan.

"Um...yes.”

“Great,” said Blake, “because I was just thinking the other day that we don’t spend enough time hanging out over there after dark with pockets full of cash.”

“Plus, we’ve lived in Baltimore for months now and neither of us has been mugged,” I added. “It seems like as good a time as any to get that out of the way.”

“I do feel like a good mugging may be what’s been missing in my life,” Blake said. “Let's go. Evan, we’ll be back soon.”

“Uh…ok,” Evan said, looking genuinely concerned. Evan understands certain things to be true. For example, he knows that sarcasm doesn’t actually provide any protection against violent robbery. He looked at Blake and I not as you would at brave adventurers, with admiration and a hint of jealousy, but more like you would at helpless idiots, with pity and fear for their lives. Evan also knows that there’s no point in arguing with us, as he is a man of Logic, and that is a country Blake and I have no interest in touring. So, with his look of genuine concern, he sent us on our way.

Blake and I climbed into his truck and pulled out of the parking lot. He pulled a stack of twenties from his wallet and said, “Here.”

“What’s this?”

“It’s the dog’s half."

"You don’t need to do this."

"Take it," he said, shaking it in my face. "Seriously. None of us has any extra money. You can’t afford this any more than we can, so just take the money.” I stuck it in my pocket, glad for the help, embarrassed to accept it.

We drove west. The thing about Baltimore is that you’re never more than a few minutes drive (or stroll) from a neighborhood you probably shouldn’t be driving (or strolling) through. In that spirit, it didn’t take long for the trip to get interesting.

The street lights were all out, and, on either side of the road, there was project housing, the flavor of which I hadn’t seen since that time I got lost in Detroit on my way to a pediatric clinic. Laundry hung from lines in between the buildings. “Clothes lines,” I pointed, “I haven’t seen those since the last time I went to Amish country. Any chance you think these people might be Amish?”

“I'm not so sure,” Blake said. “I think the drug deal we’re watching over here and that guy picking up the hooker over there actually argue against this being one of Amish country’s satellite branches. Now, if that hooker was wearing a bonnet, maybe…but with her hair all out like that, I'm unconvinced.”

“Well, on closer inspection, I’m beginning to think you may be right, mostly because that guy appears to have a hand gun sticking out of the top of his boxers and, as everyone knows, the Amish wear briefs.”

As I said this, I glanced over at Blake and suddenly noticed something I hadn’t before—he’s really, really good looking. Like J. Crew model pretty. Like J. Crew model pretty…except much smaller. As I sized up his 5’8” buck thirty frame with his perfectly plucked eyebrows, long lashes, and pouty lips in his lavender polo, plaid shorts, and boat shoes, it suddenly occurred to me that I may have actually chosen the last man on the planet a girl should take with her to the impound lot. This is not the kind of guy you hide behind in an emergency, I thought. This is the kind you try to outrun in the vain hope predators will descend upon the slower, more attractive one.

“You know,” I said, half joking, “I think maybe we should turn around now and I’ll just buy a new car. I never really liked that one anyway.”

“Well, now that we’re all the way out here, we might as well just get this done. We’ve gone so far west I really think it’s going to get better soon, that we’re going to come out the other side of all this. Plus, I wasn’t planning to drive back through here. I think we should figure out how to drive around all this to get home.”

“Oh, that’s cute, the way you still believe we might make it home.”

We drove a few more blocks and somehow, it actually got darker. I repeated my suggestion that we might just abandon this mission. “I think that even if we do make it to this impound lot, we shouldn’t actually stop and get out. Like I said, I’ll just buy a new car. Or not. You know, I’ve been meaning to put some air in those bike tires and get a little more exercise.”

“Look over there,” he said pointing ahead. “A Burger King. And a gas station. With lights. See, I told you it would get better.”

“This is better. Now let’s go hole up in that Burger King until morning,” I said. I include this detail here to point out that it was not my idea to continue driving.

But continue we did.

The Burger King, the gas station, the lights—that was the eye in the ghetto storm. Suddenly, all that we had just driven through looked like the Sandals Baltimore compared to what we were in the middle of.

It was then that we began to panic. I looked over at the J. Crew model and thought, We are not going to make it out of here alive. I am about to get the only person in Baltimore who truly appreciates my sense of humor killed for a fucking used Toyota. I thought of the look on Evan’s face when we left the house—the look of pity and fear—and thought, ...and he is going to be so ticked at me when his boyfriend and I are dead.

Just when it looked it really could not get any worse, we pulled up to the impound lot. It was a large cement block wall with a huge overhead door in the center. To the right of the huge door was a smaller windowless gray metal door. Next to that hung tiny rusted placard that said RING BUZZER TO ENTER.

"Shit, Blake. We can’t get out here. Fuck my car. Just keep driving.”

“We’ve come all this way, let’s just try it.”

He parked in front of the buzzer. As he unbuckled his seat belt and reached for his door handle, I craned my neck around to survey the surroundings. There were a couple people standing in an empty lot across the street. One of them started to walk in our direction. “Blake, don’t move," I said. "Look at that guy behind us. I think he’s coming this way.” Blake stuck the keys back in the ignition and paused. The man crossed to our side of the street, slowed for a minute, looked at the truck, and then turned and walked the other way.

Blake saw this as our chance to get in the building. In one acrobatic move, with a flash of lavender polo, he jumped out of the truck and onto the buzzer. Less convinced that getting out of the vehicle was the way to go here, I tentatively opened my door and stepped onto the gravel outside. Hearing footsteps behind me, I whipped around to find a man standing near the rear bumper of the truck. “Evenin,” he said. My eyes shot to the hand he had resting on a bulge in his front pocket.

Meanwhile, Blake’s left hand was on the gray door knob as his right was on the buzzer. In the millisecond during which it was unlocked, he yanked hard and yelled to me, “Get in here. NOW.” I ran for the door, and he slammed it shut behind us.

We were standing inside a cage of fencing. There was a metal awning over our heads, cars parked outside the fence under the awning to our left, a small plexiglass encased office to our right. Inside sat a woman in her twenties. She looked bored and tired…until she sized us up, at which point she looked bored and tired and a little befuddled, as though she didn’t typically have visitors in boyfriend jeans and boat shoes at this time of night.

“Can I, uh…help you two?”

“We’re here to pick up a car,” I said.

“Yeah, I figured as much,” she said.

“It’s a 2002 Toyota.”

She turned around and pulled a handwritten invoice off of a cork board. “It’ll be two hundred ninety eight. And some ID.”

I slid a three hundred dollars in twenties and my drivers license through the thin opening in the bottom of the plexiglass.

“I can’t make change,” she said.

“That’s ok,” Blake stammered. “Keep it.”

“Alright,” she said. "Here’s what you’re going to do: You’re going to open that gate behind you. Walk straight back, into the open lot behind the building. Find your vehicle. Drive it back under the awning up to the big door. I’ll open the door just long enough for you to get your car out. Once the door closes, I won’t open it again. No matter what.”

Blake and I exchanged a look that said, quite simply, Fuck.

We opened the gate. We stepped out into the open lot and began frantically looking for my car. When I say frantically, I mean to imply that there may have been some actual scampering about and perhaps even a little squealing—some of it from me. We found my car, jumped inside, and drove under the awning towards the huge overhead door. “I really don’t want to go back out there,” I said.

“I really don’t want to get out of your car and into mine,” said Blake.

The door opened much too quickly, and I begrudgingly crept forward. Then, as quickly as it opened, it started to close. It was as if we were being kicked back out into the street. I sped up to avoid getting crushed and stopped near Blake’s truck. His keys in hand, he leapt from the passenger seat, darted in front of my car, and, in the time it would have taken most to unlock it, got inside, started the truck, whipped it into reverse, and blew through the first red light.

Trailing a mere seven inches behind his rear bumper, I followed that J. Crew model out of West Baltimore, back to the apartment from whence we came.

There were four open visitor spots. (When it rains, it pours.) Moments later, there was an open bottle of red and a story that began, “Oh. My. God. Evan, you would not believe where we just were…”

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

On vacation

I’m sitting on my parents’ deck, underneath an oak tree. (Or is it a maple? And how pathetic is it that I don’t know the difference? I grew up in Ohio for fuck’s sake. I should know my basic deciduous trees.) Anyway, I’m sitting under a basic deciduous tree, listening to the Avett Brothers’ new album on NPR, watching finches eat some sort of finch delicacy from my mother’s bird feeders.

When she was fired from her church job (a story far too gross for the internet) my mother spent a week obsessed with tiny birds. She hung three feeders from a basic deciduous tree branch in front of the kitchen window and spent hours bird watching. My sister called me one day and, in a bit of a panic, whispered, “Ever since she got fired by God, she just stands by the sink, staring out the window, bird book in hand, trying to identify those damn finches. We have got to find this woman a job.”

Now that Mom has recovered—something we attribute to the resumption of gainful employment, vodka, and her new found love affair with the word fuck—the finches are still fed, but no longer studied; and I sort of wonder if they miss the attention.

I know what that’s like. In New York, I used to walk past this crazy homeless guy every day on my way to work. As I walked by, he’d yell obscenities at me. Every single day. Then, one day, as I walked past, he didn’t say anything. It was as if he just couldn’t be bothered. You’d think I would be relieved, but I was secretly thinking, “What? All the sudden I don’t warrant offensive screaming? Suddenly you have better things to do than call me a cunt?”

So, you know, I wonder if those same finches who used to pretend to be all annoyed by the crazy woman at the window studying their every move are now surprised to find themselves feeling just a bit neglected since she’s gone back to work.

And what does it say about me that I’m spending my vacation sitting on my parents’ deck, under a basic deciduous tree I can’t name, wondering about the secret thought lives of tiny birds?

Don’t answer that.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Two ninedy eight

My car was stuck in an impound lot. And I blame this on the dog.

Not on my dog. I don’t have a dog.
I blame this on Blake’s dog.

Blake is a fellow intern. He is my favorite fellow intern. He reminds me of me. Except, prettier. And bitchier. And better at parallel parking. Plagiarizing hotdogsladies brilliant twitter, we only wish all the other idiots were as tolerant, self-aware, and intellectually nuanced as we are.

Blake and I sort of met before the intern year started. I emailed the intern class asking (begging) for a place to stay for two weeks while I waited for my apartment to be ready. Blake was the only one who responded. He said that he and his boyfriend, Evan, had a spare room and wouldn’t mind a temporary boarder. This was the third time a gay person offered me a place to stay when I was in a bind. When my sister heard about it, she said, “I’m beginning to think that being a homosexual has less to do with orientation and more to do with a person’s willingness to lodge your perennially homeless ass.”

“Could be worse,” I said. “I could still be living with my parents.” Then, she flipped me off—a sure sign that I’d won that round.

In the end, I didn’t end up staying with Blake. My apartment was available earlier than expected. In spite of having my own place, though, I have spent quite a few nights in Blake’s guest room. And I blame this on the boyfriend.

Not on my boyfriend. I don’t have a boyfriend.
I blame this on Blake’s boyfriend.

The dude makes killer martinis. Literally. These drinks suppress your drive to breath. A couple of sips, and suddenly, you can imagine what it might feel like to have those floating olives for brains. A couple more, and you’re convinced that you do.

In all of the time I’ve spent at Blake’s, trying not to let his boyfriend drown me in vodka, I’ve bonded with his dog. She’s an old, overweight, grumpy, long-haired (except for those few patches without hair) dachshund. She has terrible breath, and she bites. Sitting next to her on the couch, suddenly I seem both attractive and sweet. She's the best kind of friend—the kind that makes you look good by comparison

Blake and Evan left town this weekend for a friend’s birthday party. They didn’t go for the friend. They went for the party. They needed someone to watch the dog, and I happily volunteered. I’ve missed having a dog, and, like I said, she and I enjoy each other’s company.

The boys left Saturday morning. I spent most of the day at the mall—an unusual Saturday for me, to be sure, as there are few places on the planet I hate more than the mall. Gas station bathrooms. McDonald's that serve powered cream with their coffee. Crowded elevators. Airplanes that sit at the gate with the air conditioning turned off. The Pennsylvania turnpike… That’s it. The five places on the planet I hate more than the mall.

But, I decided that a tee shirt and jeans girl like myself could really use more than two pairs of jeans. Online shopping is difficult when you’re never at home to accept packages. I sucked it up and went to the damn mall.

I ended up with Levis 501s. Button fly boyfriend jeans—so named because you’re only supposed to wear these if you already have a boyfriend. If you’re a single girl, you’re supposed to shoehorn your ass into skinny jeans and then walk around pretending like you enjoy that painted on denim feeling, resisting the almost overwhelming urge to wrap your car around a pole just so paramedics will show up with trauma shears and cut you out of your pants.

I briefly considered buying said jeans, but I was concerned that they would turn me into a slut. They’d make good on their sexy promise—I’d attract the aforementioned boyfriend. And then, I’d put out on the first date simply because I could not wait ONE MORE SECOND to get out of those damn pants.

So, because I’d like to maintain some standards—like not putting out until the third date—and because I don’t have the kind of car or health insurance you can comfortably wrap around a pole, I bought the boyfriend jeans. I know I’m unlikely to attract a boyfriend with them, but that’s where the scrubs come in. Nothing says sexy quite like those drawstring floods washed in the same hospital load as shit-soaked bed linens. (Something to think about next time you’re watching the cast of Grey’s Anatomy peel them off of each other in some hot and steamy soiled utility closet.)

When I got back from the mall, there were no open visitor spaces outside Blake and Evan’s apartment. There were, however, a couple hundred open resident spots. I parked in the one Evan’s car normally occupies. I made dinner. I took the dog out to pee. I looked for a visitor spot for my car. There was not one. I watched a movie. I had a glass of Malbec. I took the dog out to poop. I looked for a visitor spot for my car. There was not one. I set my alarm for 7 am. I went to bed. I woke up to move my car. There was not one.

I made a phone call. A woman answered, and it was clear from her voice that I had just woken her up. “Uh…hold on,” she said before, I can only assume from the amount of time I spent holding on, she rolled over, finished her good night’s sleep, woke at her usual hour, made herself a cup of coffee, put on her face, and then returned with, “Yeah, we towed yo car. Is goin be two ninedy eight. Cash. Ezact change only. We open tweny fo sevin.”

And then I commenced to pacing. If pacing paid, I would have earned that two ninedy eight in about eight minutes. I paced and muttered to myself… It’s only money. This is not worth getting upset about. It’s only money. This is not that big a deal. It’s only money. I just won’t buy those shoes I wanted. Or that armchair. It’s only money…

And then, because that made me feel not one ounce better, I paced and muttered to the dog… “You know, I blame this on you. You and that sappy look you shot me last night when I suggested that maybe I should just leave and come back this morning to let you out. Damn that sappy look. Go get your leash. We’re walking to the ATM. Half of this two ninedy eight is coming out of your account.”

We walked the several blocks to the nearest ATM. A few blocks in, the dog gave me a sappy look that begged me to carry her the rest of the way. “Nice try,” I said, “but I’ve got two nindey eight reasons to ignore that face. Keep walking.”

Every third or fourth person we passed stooped to pet her. “She bites,” I warned. There’s always one, though...some douchebag who fancies himself a real dog person, the white Cesar Millan. He shook his head a little and reached his hand towards her head, smiling and cooing. This dog has no patience for smiling and cooing. She bit him.

“She bites!” he yelled, as he whipped his slightly mangled hand out of her jaw.

“Who knew?” I deadpanned. And we walked on.


Two ninedy eight later, I had my car back.

Except, it was actually three hundred. And a near death experience at a West Baltimore impound lot at 9:45 at night.

That’s another story for another day. I’m on vacation, so that day may come sooner rather than later.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

On the phone with Graci

G: "Tomorrow, I'm doing an autopsy on a schizophrenic."

T: "Can you see schizophrenia on an autopsy?"

G: "Yeah duh...there are people in their heads."

T: hysterical laughing

On the phone with Blake's boyfriend

The boyfriend: "I'm having a pomegranate martini. You need to come have one. They're good for your prostate."

Terroni: "I know I'm manlier than you are, but I don't actually have a prostate. And besides, I'm on call right now."

The boyfriend: "So tomorrow then?"

Terroni: "Yes. Tomorrow, we'll drink to my prostate."

Time of death

The nurse said, "We need you to come give us a time of death."

"Well, what time did he die?" I asked.

"I don't know. We can't call him dead until you pronounce him."

That is what it means to pronounce someone dead. But at the time, it struck me as utterly ridiculous.

He died when he died.
That's when he died.
But the time of death...that's when I say he died.

When you been awake for thirty hours, the absurdity of all of this sort of smacks you in the face.

Friday, August 21, 2009

And then there was one

Graci just called. When I told her I was blogging, she said, "About the testicle? Are you blogging about the testicle? When are you going to tell them about the testicle?"

"I'll tell them about the testicle," I said.

So, here's the deal...Graci lost a testicle at work.
When I first read that status update on her Facebook page (yes, she put that on her Facebook page, and it immediately became the best reason to have Facebook), I thought maybe it was a metaphor for something--a way of saying she had a particularly bad day. An odd way of saying it, to be sure; but nonetheless, that's what I thought she meant.

It turns out, she was being literal. She really lost a testicle. She was doing an autopsy on a guy (I suppose that last detail was probably assumed by readers with even the most rudimentary knowledge of human anatomy) when she suddenly lost a nut.

"There were two of them, sitting right there next to the sink, and then I looked...and there was only one! I looked all over for the other one, but I couldn't find the damn thing anywhere. It must have gone down the drain."

"So, let me get this straight...you're at an ivy league pathology program, and you people are accidentally rinsing body parts down the drain?"

"Yeah. Pretty much. Worst part is, this guy had one of those weird religious beliefs about how you have to be buried whole. I just picture him wandering in circles for all eternity, looking for his lost ball. One nut shy of heaven. "

"And to think, this is one of the best pathology programs in the world. Imagine the stuff they must lose at second rate programs."

"Seriously."

"Are they making fun of you at work now?"

"All day. Every day."

"As is only appropriate, you know."

"I know."

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Decemberists

Take up your arms
Sons and daughters 
We will arise from the bunkers 
By land, by sea, by dirigible 
We'll leave our tracks untraceable now...

Hear all the bombs fade away
Hear all the bombs fade away
Hear all the bombs fade away...

She sings, off key, while dancing around her apartment, sans rhythm. 

Saturday, August 8, 2009

The week in review

Unremarkable Monday

I don't remember what happened on Monday, but when you say you're going to do a week in review post, you're sort of obligated to start at the beginning of the week.

Speaking of starts, we're off to a rather riveting one, eh?
Yes, well, what can I say?
I like to grab the audience's attention right from the beginning.
(Or, set the bar low right off the bat, such that they'll be pleasantly surprised if anything even remotely entertaining is said in the next few paragraphs.)



It's like Tuesdays with Morrie (if, you know, Morrie flushed his psych meds, bought a handgun, drank a six pack, and then called your mother)


My mom called to warn me that the Ex is poking around for me. The fact that he tried to employ her for some assistance in that regard is further evidence that he is bat shit crazy. That woman wouldn't piss on him if he were on fire, let alone give him her daughter's address.

That's it.
That's the story.

(Do me a favor. Don't write Be careful in the comments. It's a perfectly reasonable thing to say--probably the very thing I'd say if I were reading this. But for some reason, it is the last fucking thing I want to hear right now. Thanks.)


It's Business Time... and Slick Willy woke up this morning, put on his business socks, and proved he's still got it.

In case you missed it, a recap:

Former President Bill Clinton went to North Korea.

He took this picture...


And from this picture, we learn a little more about South Korea's pesky little Stalinist hat.

First, their fearless leader is actually an evil garden gnome. Let this be a lesson to you lovers of the lawn ornament: If you let those things run around unchecked, it's only a matter of time before they get all full of themselves, MacGyver your bird bath into a nuclear launch pad, and make things a wee bit tense between you and the neighbors.

Second, North Korea and Atlantic City shop at the same carpet store.

Third, in spite of the festive floor coverings, North Korea does not appear to be a barrel of laughs. Or the best place to get your white blazer tailored.

But, I digress. The real point of this story is that Bill's still got it. He can charm the pants and the prisoners off the best of 'em. And frankly, he makes me proud to be an American.

I know that not everyone agrees. In fact, I hear that Fox "News" has been talking about how this whole freed prisoners thing is really very bad because it somehow gives North Korea good publicity. (As if people who see that picture are going to say, "Hey honey, I know we were planning to retire in Boca, but what do you say we move Pyongyang instead?") Rather than sending someone to ask for the safe return of Laura Ling and Euna Lee, we should have just left well enough alone, sending the message that The Greatest Nation on Earth is entirely too great to give a shit about a couple women being worked to death by a totalitarian regime. In fact, the patriotic response to this kind of thing is, "Go ahead. Take them. See if we care."

There was also a suggestion that perhaps Clinton secretly gave away something to secure the women's release, as if we might expect a bunch of Koreans to come take over Kansas later this week. When we're all like, "What the fuck? Get out of Kansas, you bitches!", with great hubris, they'll say, "Oh, you haven't heard? We hypnotized Bill with our psychedelic casino carpeting, and he accidentally traded the heartland for a couple of journalists."

Barring the loss of the Midwest, I actually believe this whole story is pretty fucking great. Maybe it's the liberal in me, but I think that any time hostages are released sans gunfire, explosion, and the sale of arms to Iran, it's a good day.

Wednesday was a good day.


Thoracentesis Thursday

I did a thoracentesis on Thursday. Sticking a large needle in someone's back and draining off a liter of yellowish green fluid may not sound like fun to you.

That's the difference between you and me.


Not as good as last Friday

This Friday was about as exciting as Monday.
Take the week by storm and go out with a bang, I always say.

Last Friday, however, was just about the best thing ever.

Remember Alex? (Sure you do. I blog so infrequently now, she's practically the only thing I've written about all month.)

She got really depressed mid way through last week. (It might have been that whole in the hospital on a clear liquid diet waiting to have your colon removed on your birthday thing.) In an attempt to cheer her up a bit, I suggested that she and I have a movie night. I said, "I work until 10 pm on Friday night. I'll come get you when I'm done and we'll go to the attending lounge and watch a movie. There's a huge flat screen TV in there and few, if any, attendings on a Friday at ten."

"Are you allowed to take patients in there?" she asked.

"No. Absolutely not. We'll have to put you in some scrubs and cover your PICC line with, uh...do you have zip up hoodie?"

"Yes. I was actually wearing it when I was admitted."

"Perfect. If you're in scrubs, tennis shoes, and a hoodie, you'll look like a med student on call with her resident. They won't even know you're a patient. I'm not even really supposed to hang out in the attending lounge, but you'll get to see what it's like to hang out with the rebel resident--you'll see what it's like for my med students."

She was grinning from ear to ear at this point, and I was trying to silence that little voice in my frontal lobe that was screaming, T, YOU'RE GOING TO GET FIRED.

I told her to pick a movie and that I'd watch anything she liked.

On Friday night, I wrote the following order:
Hold IV fluids, TPN, & intralipids at 2200 for 2 hours.
Pt may be off the floor accompanied by physician.

At ten o'clock, I handed off my patients to another resident and grabbed Alex's nurse, who smirked a little when she saw the order. "I'm not even going to ask," she said.

"Probably best if you don't," I said. "Plausible deniability can only work in your favor here."

As she unhooked Alex's IV, she looked us both over from head to toe, smiled, and shook her head a little as she realized we were dressed just alike.

Alex picked up a DVD from her bedside table. "Breakfast at Tiffany's. I've never seen it, and my mom said she thought you'd like it."

"A great choice," I said. "It's a classic and one of my favorites."

We left her room, walked past a nurse's station full of rather puzzled looks, and hopped in the elevator. As I pushed the L for lobby, I turned to her and asked, "So, how does it feel to be getting off the floor?"

"This is amazing," she said. "Right now, I don't even feel like a patient." I smiled, swallowed hard, and wondered when exactly I had turned into such a sap.

There was no one in the lounge when we walked in, which was nice, because I hadn't really rehearsed my "hey boys, we're here to take over the television" line. A few attendings did trickle in during the next two hours. They stayed just long enough to refill their coffee mugs, and there were just enough of them to reinforce the idea that we were not really supposed to be there. It made the whole thing that much more fun.

I walked Alex back to her room after the movie and thanked her for spending her Friday with me. "Thank you," she said. "This actually felt like a real Friday night."

Actually, I thought, this felt like one of the best Fridays ever. And I've been humming Moon River ever since.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Alex

Today is your birthday. 23. And you are stuck in the hospital. On a clear liquid diet. Waiting to have your colon taken out because this fucking ulcerative colitis just won't stop ulcerating. Food leaves you doubled over in pain, bleeding.

You are supposed to be out, celebrating with friends. And in five days, you are supposed to move up the coast to start medical school. The best laid plans of mice and men...

At midnight, I crept into your room to leave balloons and a card from me and Blake, the other intern, on your bedside table. I snuck back out quickly. If I had lingered a second longer, I'm afraid I would have cried.

I truly believe all those things that I've told you. The moment you step foot onto that med school's campus, it will not matter how long it took you to get there. You will come through this terrible experience a stronger woman and a better doctor than can ever be made in the classroom.

When I wrote you that prescription for Walt Whitman--From this hour I ordain myself loos'd of limits and imaginary lines--I meant for you to fill it.

But still, I imagine how incredibly disheartening this must be. To be five days away from moving to medical school. Five days. And to have to postpone it all for a year.

I know how scared you are, too. No matter how I reassure you that you'll still be a gorgeous woman who will live a normal life, you're the one who has to face going into that OR whole and coming out with a bag on her stomach. Nothing Walt Whitman or I say can really make that okay.

It's times like this, people like you, that make me understand the pull of primary care medicine--the doctor who knows you through the years, who will get to see what I'm confident will be this story's happy ending.

When Blake and I give you our contact info and tell you to keep in touch, to let us know how it all goes, we are both really hoping you do just that. This time next year, call one of us to bitch about how you can't get that nasty cadaver smell out of your nose after anatomy lab.

We'll ask how you spent your 24th birthday. Tell us you went out with your friends, that you had one too many drinks...and that you ate cake.